By Iryna Paltseva
Today the whole world knows what is happening in Ukraine. War came to my home in February of 2022 one morning at 5:30am with a deafening explosion from the airport about 15 kilometers from my street. My husband, young daughter and myself then spent 40 days in occupied territory. Our home was no longer our home. It was the most terrible time of my life.
Then a series of happy accidents brought me to Canada, where my family got the opportunity to start our lives over again. I will be infinitely grateful to all the kind, empathetic Canadians who have made me feel safe again and who have restored my strength to live and dream again.
Have you ever wondered how you would cope if you had to move not to a different city, but to another continent? Starting life from scratch in a new country turned out to be very, very difficult. Fortunately, my English isn’t too bad, which makes me very happy. After all, knowledge of English in an English-speaking country is an essential skill.
Surprisingly, I did not even realize how much of the cultural context we need to absorb to be able to live comfortably in a new country. Once I arrived in Canada, I encountered many unexpected difficulties. I knew that it would be hard to express myself and that it would take a lot of effort to find a job. What I did not expect was everyday troubles such as not knowing what to bring with me when I am invited to someone’s home, or what to give for a birthday celebration, or what topics are acceptable to talk about with coworkers, or even how to dress for various events.
I did not know the Ontario healthcare and education systems and even getting a child into school turned out to be a massive quest. I had never seen a barbecue before however, they seem to be in every home in Canada! How do you cook on them?!
The biggest skill I have been using since living in Canada is my enthusiasm for self-education. Luckily, we live in the age of YouTube and Google. One well-formed question can replace ten encyclopedias!
If someone told me one year ago that I would calmly stroll through Toronto in the evening, or figure out how to get to Niagara Falls by public transport, I would have laughed in that person’s face. However, here we are, and I have proudly lived in Etobicoke for almost 3 months, and my daughter started getting her school education in English.
Would I like this new life to have happened under other circumstances? Of course! Do I dream there is no grief, worries, and fears behind my shoulders? Definitely! Do I regret that I live in Canada now? Absolutely not!
After everything that I have been through, I have learned from personal experience how important it is to live in the present day, and not be afraid to go after goals. This is why I am writing and contributing this personal story to Learning Curves. Just a couple of months ago it seemed unrealistic to continue my journalistic and writing career. However, Canada is truly a land of opportunity, so I decided that I would no longer be afraid to chase my dreams.
No one knows what awaits us around the corner. In the last few years alone, our planet earth has experienced the COVID-19 pandemic, global warming, and maybe we are even standing on the verge of a third World War. Do not put your life on pause, waiting for better times to come. Try, take risks, bring your ideas to life, and most importantly: be happy.
This article was submitted by Iryna Paltseva. She is a Ukrainian Freelance Writer who relocated to Canada under the CUET (Canadian-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel) program. Iryna is a client with Achev, an Employment Ontario funded career centre, and is re-establishing her writing career. You can contact her at: email@example.com.